by Alek and Selina
Hi fellow future moms,
I´m Ava(37+) already a happy mom of a 5yo boy and planning to get a second child. Unfortunately Eric has a hereditary disease namely down-syndrome. That’s why I need a second opinion of yours on using embryo screening to ensure my next child will be healthy and carefree. Embryo screening is recommended for women over 37, a family history with chromosome problems and multiple miscarriages… So I´ll be perfectly in this recommendation group and this embryo screening process would be painless, simple and fast (that’s what the doctors told me).
The process consists of harvesting of a few fertilized eggs which are observed in a lab for a number of days. The biopsy is performed on the 3rd day of fertilization (each embryo has 6-8 cells). During the biopsy only 1-2 cells are extracted because a higher number would result in a development trouble. After that the embryos are placed back into their incubator until the diagnosis is retrieved. There are two diagnosis procedures PGFA (Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidies) and PGT (Preimplantation Genetic Testing): PGFA is screening for present chromosome abnormalities / PGT is screening for specific conditions (e.g. down-syndrome). The diagnosis is heading to evaluate which one of these embryos is the healthiest and has the best chance of survival and implantation. One is selected and implanted into the womb.
So here are my concerns about embryo screenings:
Embryos have a right to live, protection and recognition as a human being. It´s unethical to choose between the chances of survival of several humans based on a “quality analysis”, thus waging a human life against another, and denouncing the unselected embryo as unworthy to live. This also contradicts with our ethics and societal values. Embryo screening leads to a discrimination of disabled people because these people are seen in this case as faulty and a mistake. As a consequence two classes, the ones who were selected or altered and the ones who were born naturally with eventually their own human flaws, can emerge. Embryo screening is expensive and if only the wealthy can afford this procedure this two-class idea doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
In addition many scientists are doubtful because most human traits are influenced by multiple genes interacting not just with each other, but also with the environment. That’s why a healthy life of that embryo is not guaranteed.
But on the other hand there are several equally important reasons to do embryo screening:
If a pregnant woman gets notified, her child is disabled or is very likely to die and she is about to abort her child, it´s mostly a worse and severer operation, than implanting a proved healthy embryo.
This would lead to optimal start conditions for the child. Actually the woman needs to have a freedom of choice on whether doing it or not. If it´s banned women would do it abroad or in dubious circumstances.
In Germany embryo screening isn´t totally banned but regulated. It is allowed to use it in order to scan for hereditary disease, screen for aneuploidy or if the pregnancy can lead to a miscarriage. It is strictly forbidden to use this procedure to choose between immune compatible embryos, gender or other than the previously mentioned cases.
In „Building Baby from the Genes Up“ ethics professor Ronald M. Green’s essay presents his case in support of the genetic engineering of embryos arguing that a eradication of diseases can follow after working on embryo genes. „Eventually, without discarding embryos at all, we could use gene-targeting techniques to tweak fetal DNA sequences. No child would have to face a lifetime of dieting or experience the health and cosmetic problems associated with obesity.”
During my research I stuck on to women´s experience doing embryo screening:
Both future parents were desperate because both of them had a condition called cystic fibrosis and their child had a 50% chance on getting it too. The future mother couldn´t handle a child with this disease and they wanted to save the child from having this painful life.
In Germany the doctors recommended and offered to do ICSI and if their child is ill simply to abort the pregnancy. Therefore they went to Belgium to do a PID (Preimplantation genetic diagnosis). They talked to several doctors and psychiatrists, which explained the process and it´s dangers, they were welcoming and cared for them. The couple felt safe and calmed down. The mother had to take a nasal spray to decrease her hormones and was injected every day. After 8-9 days her ova were ready and 22 ova were stippled which lasted just 10min and was totally painless. The father´s sperms were extracted (she was amused by the way he had to walk after the extraction). 5 days later the embryos were tested only on cystic fibrosis. Another 5 days later 2 embryos with a chance of 98% being cystic fibrosis free were in just 10sec implanted. Two weeks after she got a positive pregnancy test. Both of them were overjoyed but still feared a miscarriage but didn´t test the baby on any disabilities because they would still keep it even if it´s disabled. They asked the doctor to not mention the procedure because they feared; doctors would tend to aCaesarean section more likely. At the end they got a healthy son and doesn’t regret anything.
The second experience describes the first child born via PID in Germany:
Annette Z. had multiple miscarriages and abortions because of a severely disabled child.
One had a fluid retention and was about to die, another died in the 10th pregnancy week and the last had a severe condition of desbuquois-syndrome, a rare skeletal disease which leads to a painful life sometimes to death. Dietrich Z. her husband requested for permission to do a PID which was approved.
4 out of 6 fertilized ova had genetic mutations which would trigger the desbuquois-syndrome.<br>The two healthy ova were implanted and Annette got pregnant.
In an interview she told that she disapproves the use of PID in order to create a perfect baby or anything that is unnecessary. But she accepts and believes that it´s right to do PID to prevent serious diseases.